December 19, 2018
The former (and fleetingly ensconced) national security adviser for the Trump administration, Michael Flynn, is not off the hook yet.
Flynn—who admitted lying to the FBI in January 2017 about a conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which he promised to relax U.S. sanctions; and who served as a foreign agent for Turkey concurrently with his day job at the White House—was scheduled to be sentenced on December 18 by Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
However, the sentencing for crimes investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was postponed, Politico reported, after Judge Sullivan suggested that all sides wait until Flynn had finished cooperating with the Russia probe.
The surprise outcome came after an uncommonly combative hearing, during which Sullivan repeatedly admonished Flynn, telling him, “Arguably, you sold your country out.”
The court had been expected to go easy on Flynn, after sentencing guidelines by the Mueller team noted that his “history and characteristics,” along with his contributions to the investigation, presented “mitigating” circumstances. “The defendant deserves credit for accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government,” the document said.
“All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States,” Sullivan said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Arguably, that undermines everything that flag over here stands for.”
According to Politico, after about an hour of back and forth with Flynn and his lawyers, as well as Mueller’s team, Sullivan called an abrupt recess to give Flynn and his lawyers more time to reconsider whether they wanted to proceed with the sentencing, indicating he was not always comfortable sentencing those who are still cooperating with authorities.
Sullivan also noted that he was not obliged to follow Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn get little or no prison time for pleading guilty.
“This is a very serious offense,” said Sullivan, who noted Flynn’s crime involved a high-ranking official of the government making false statements to the FBI “while on the physical premise of the White House.”
After the recess, the news outlet said, Flynn attorney Robert Kelner said they would accept Sullivan’s offer to postpone sentencing so they can “eek” out every drop of cooperation benefit. “We do not take it as a wink-wink, nod-nod,” Kelner said.
“I’m not promising anything,” Sullivan replied.
For his part, Politico said, Flynn initially had said he didn’t want to take Sullivan up on his offer to postpone his sentencing hearing. “I appreciate that, but no your honor,” the former Trump official said.
After running through some housekeeping issues related to the Flynn case, including setting the March 13 date for the next status conference, Sullivan adjourned the hearing with a “happy holidays.”
Research contact: @dsamuelsohn